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Review of ‘Red Beans and Weiss’ by Chuck E. Weiss

Chuck E. Weiss is sort of a fringe character in rock music. Immortalized in song (Rickie Lee Jones’s “Chuck E.’s in Love” from 1979) and revered by other musicians, Weiss is largely unknown to the masses. But life in the shadows suits Weiss, a longtime fixture in Los Angeles’s music scene where he regularly plays his brand of the blues in bars. His recorded output is sporadic, which makes his latest, “Red Beans and Weiss” (terrible title, terrific album) such a welcome pleasure. Weiss operates in the genre I call “boogeyman rock ’n’ roll”: rough and rowdy Americana geared for people who like gravel-voiced singers like Tom Waits, Tony Joe White, and Dr. John. It turns out Waits executive-produced this album for Anti- Records with Johnny Depp, another of Weiss’s admirers and old friends. Weiss is the star, though, careening through a spirited set that lets him dip into roadhouse rock (“Tupelo Joe”), closing-time jazz (“Shushie”), horn-stoked blues (“Exile on Main Street Blues”), and even a side trip to Mexico (“Hey Pendejo”). (Out Tuesday)

JAMES REED

ESSENTIAL “Tupelo Joe”

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